Objective: The authors assessed the need for mental health services among older adults in San Diego County, California, by determining what needs were not being addressed by existing services, what services were necessary to address these needs, and how much consensus there was among different stakeholders with respect to the problems and solutions related to service delivery.
Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with 23 health care and social service providers and administrators, 16 services consumers and other older adults (55 years of age and older), and 19 caregivers/family members and patient/client advocates. This was followed by four focus groups comprised of 18 providers and administrators, six focus groups comprised of 50 consumers and other older adults, and five focus groups comprised of 39 caregivers (family members and advocates).
Results: The unmet needs fell into three categories: mental health services, physical health services, and social services. Two interrelated themes were identified by participants: 1) the need for age-appropriate and culturally appropriate services to overcome barriers to mental health services access, use, and quality; and 2) the interrelations between unmet needs that address prevention as well as treatment of mental illness, including socialization and social support, transportation, housing, and physical health care. Differences in stakeholder assessment of unmet needs were associated with respective roles in delivery and use of mental health services.
Conclusion: Age-appropriate and culturally appropriate solutions that address both prevention and treatment may represent the best strategies for addressing the challenges of mental illness and are most likely to be endorsed by all three groups of stakeholders.